November 10 Update: Contact your Member of Congress and urge them to pass emergency relief for all infrastructure sectors before the end of the 116th Congress. Legislation that will provide much needed relief to infrastructure systems across our nation is critical to ensuring safe and reliable systems. Despite the CARES Act providing much needed relief for transit agencies, Amtrak, airports, a fix to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and relief to small businesses; state departments of transportation have not received any emergency relief and infrastructure systems continue to struggle amid the pandemic.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all aspects of our daily lives – including our infrastructure.
State and Local governments are having to reprioritize their spending due to drastically reduced revenues, as well as costs associated with combating the current public health crisis. In fact, the National Governors Association has requested $500 billion in fiscal support for states to support budgetary shortfalls that have resulted from the pandemic. As Americans continue to abide by stay-at-home orders, states and localities are seeing a reduction in gas tax receipts, while water utilities are seeing lost revenue as they continue to waive fees for households unable to complete payment, combined with decreased commercial usage.
At a time when interest rates are low and traffic is light – ideal scenarios for fast-tracking construction – capital projects and critical maintenance work is being put on hold due to dramatic budget shortfalls.
To combat these projected revenue losses, ASCE joined AASHTO and other stakeholders in calling for Congress to provide support in the form of $37 billion in emergency relief for state Departments of Transportation. Currently, state DOTs are estimated to lose an average of 30% of transportation revenues over the next 18 months. Some states like Washington have experienced a 45% drop in traffic, along with 75% decreases in ferry and transit ridership. Georgia has also seen a nearly 50% decrease in traffic, with vehicle miles traveled in Atlanta down 70%, impacting transportation funding. Furthermore, Pennsylvania is expecting to see a loss of $800-$900 million in the next months due to lack of licensing and registration fees and lower gas/diesel tax.
Meanwhile, the American Public Transportation Association has requested another $32 billion to cover operational costs for the nation’s hard-hit transit agencies, in addition to the $25 billion that transit systems already received in the CARES Act.
ASCE is also urging Congress to support water utilities through relief that covers costs associated with moratoriums on water service disconnections, or reconnections of delinquent accounts, as well as grant or low interest loan funding to help support utility operations at a time when revenues are dropping dramatically. A component of this relief includes achieving parity between private and public sector employers regarding eligibility for payroll tax credits to alleviate the costs of paid leave during the coronavirus pandemic as introduced in the Supporting State and Local Leaders Act.
Providing these forms of near-term relief to state and local governments will help ensure our infrastructure remains safe, reliable, and ready for us to resume our pre-pandemic routines.
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